Elgin Mayor David Kaptain calls the havoc wreaked by the emerald ash borer devastating but says it provides a lesson about instant gratification. Yes, ash trees grow faster than other species and they were popular for years because of their cost -- but the emerald ash borer has proved the quick and easy route a shortsighted one.
Planting oak trees along with the ash, Kaptain said, would have been an investment in the future. The lesson ties into the "essence of volunteering" for the first-term mayor.
"That's what volunteers should be focused on," Kaptain said. "It's not just about us. It's about what you're going to do for people that are following us."
Since he was elected in April 2011, Kaptain has focused on strengthening the volunteer presence in the city and improving the communication between those in need of help and those who can provide it.
Friday he'll read a proclamation about Extra Mile Day -- celebrated Nov. 1 in 358 cities nationwide -- as volunteers gather to plant flower bulbs around city hall.
Shawn Anderson, an author and motivational speaker from Los Angeles, started Extra Mile Day in 2009 to encourage people to make a difference in their lives and their communities by doing more.
"Although Extra Mile Day is this single day where we hope to remind people that they can create positive change when they go the extra mile, it's really not about a single day," Anderson said.
He hopes to spread his life philosophy to more cities every year, eventually shifting the concept to "Extra Mile World."
Elgin already has an incredibly active volunteer presence. Hundreds gathered for a playground build day Sept. 28 at Wright Avenue Park and a veritable army of volunteers made last weekend's Nightmare on Chicago Street a success. But Kaptain's vision is to go a step further.
An office of volunteerism is in the works and city leaders hope to unveil a new system with 3-1-1 next year. Cherie Murphy, assistant to the city manager for community engagement, said city officials have been meeting with local agencies for months to craft an online portal that would help residents match their skills with the nonprofit that could use them most.
Helpers are still needed to plant tulip bulbs from 9 a.m. to noon Friday. No experience is necessary but people are asked to bring their own gloves and a trowel for digging. Call Murphy at (847) 931-5667 to sign up.